Easy and cheap voice mail solution please!
June 3, 2008 12:40 PM   Subscribe

My small business needs a permanent phone number with several easily customizable voice mail boxes.

Skype seems like it may be a solution for me, but there are many other products out there as well that seem to be more dedicated to doing exactly what I need.

I have very little technical know how in this area.

I don't have to make out going calls with this phone number (though it would be nice).

I don't have a lot of money.
posted by my homunculus is drowning to Technology (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you may be looking for a 'virtual pbx' (google for them). I have a custom toll free number with call forwarding and voicemail boxes with one company for $20/month.
posted by deepscene at 1:21 PM on June 3, 2008

Best answer: One specific company I've had experience with is Gotvmail.
posted by cdmwebs at 1:25 PM on June 3, 2008

Best answer: You might give Access Line a look which has the kind of virtual pbx action that deepscene mentions. If I recall correctly you can even access vmail on your computer so it's kinda like Apple/AT&T's visual voicemail.
posted by donovan at 1:39 PM on June 3, 2008

Best answer: I've been doing a lot of reading about VoIP options lately, for similar reasons.

When you say you need a phone number and two mailboxes, do you need a phone 'line' as well? In other words, do you need to actually be able to answer the phone? Or are you literally just looking for a number people can call in order to leave a message, and then you go and check/download the messages later?

If you just want the mailboxes and a call-in number, that's a different proposition from wanting a phone line with mailboxes. If you just want the boxes, you don't need a way of routing the calls to your location -- you just have someone host the VM and then you dial in and get your messages. That's an uncomplicated service. I can't make any recommendations of providers personally, but you could work your way down the list of DID service providers ("DID" is telephonese for "incoming number"); any provider capable of providing and routing DIDs almost certainly has the capability of issuing you a DID and then just routing it to voicemail (most non-wholesale DIDs come with free voicemail boxes). You may have to contact them to get prices.

If what you're looking for is an incoming number that actually rings a phone at your home or business (giving you the opportunity to answer it), then you're into a more conventional VoIP setup. You're going to need some sort of handset, either an IP phone, an analog telephone adapter, or a softphone on your PC, and then you buy DID service from any one of the providers in that list above, and point your handset/ATA/softphone at the provider.

Alternately, if you don't want to get into VoIP, you could get a DID with voicemail boxes and then have calls forwarded to an existing POTS line. This is generally a little more expensive than routing the calls to you via VoIP. (It will probably end up costing you somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5-2 cents a minute, rather than being free, for an incoming call.)

The major question you should ask of your potential DID providers is whether they have the ability to do multiple mailboxes on one DID (via voice prompts, "press 1 for John Doe, press 2 for ...", or whatever). Most of them do, but some may only offer 1 box per DID unless you pay extra.

I hope this explanation made sense -- it's kind of an area with a steep learning curve, but I've found that once you understand the terminology it starts to make sense. (I also discovered that purchasing VoIP services direct from actual service providers rather than through a company like Vonage or Comcast can also be surprisingly cheap.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:52 PM on June 3, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you for the excellent answers.

I need more than two mail boxes I think-- I think I may want as many as 6 or 7. . . I really want to use this line for information purposes more than anything else, but also be able to retrieve messages. I actually have another project I'm supposed to start working on. . . basically a podcast done with another person in another state and I was told that skype might be a solution for that so I'm very open to VOIP solutions.

I just don't happen to know much of anything about this stuff, which is why I took it to you wonderful people. Any more advice or reccomendations for specific solutions for me are greatly appreciated and I'll get on checking the ones mentioned above. Thank you!
posted by my homunculus is drowning at 3:17 PM on June 3, 2008

Response by poster: deepscene, what is the company you are using? There are so many of these companies out here I'm going nuts trying to compare them all.
posted by my homunculus is drowning at 3:18 PM on June 3, 2008

Response by poster: I think I will go with Gotvmail after looking through their website. It seems very easy to set up and exactly what I need. If anybody else has another solution for me though I'd be glad to hear about it. Thank you! If I wind up going through with this I will update with my opinion.
posted by my homunculus is drowning at 4:07 PM on June 3, 2008

You can rent phone numbers with voicemail boxes through answering services!
posted by regularperson at 6:27 PM on June 3, 2008

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